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The grass is greener on the other side

Life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward, and savouring the journey-Roy T. Bennett

By Denrele Animasaun

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, is encouraging Nigerians in the Diaspora to come back  home and “help build the nation to the level that would benefit future generations”. Please let that sink in, if you may. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been fine and reasonable if the call to return was meant as a sincere appeal or an incentive. No, the Minister is only inviting successful Nigerians to come and build the motherland to the next level. What level is it presently? You would have thought the successive administrations would have done their jobs after all, that was what they pledged to do time and time again, promising so much and delivering nothing.

Ogbonnaya Onu
Onu

What happens to our commonwealth? If they had done their jobs as they should, young people would not be leaving in droves and exposing themselves to perilous journeys to find any means necessary to get out of the country. So it is very rich (all pun intended) coming from Ogbonnaya Onu. In fact, it is insincere and insensitive to even try to appeal to the  goodwill of Nigerians in diaspora or those at home for that matter.

Politicians got us into this mess, now they want Nigerians to bail the country out. Many of those he addressed found their way of the country without the help of the government. Nigerians have shown around the world, if given the right environment and circumstances, they will succeed and excel.

Naturally, many people always feel the lure or call of home; it is innate. There is always the yearn to go home or visit. The pang never goes away, it is home. No one needs the minister to plead to return.

Many work decades with the dream of always coming back home. They toil, scrimp and save to build that home and that dream ‘project’ business.

The sad reality is, the  environment in Nigeria for a very long time has been very toxic and not conducive for growth. Those who return find a place where people are so improvised and always on the make, they would dupe, con, kill and blood let the naive whose dream is come home and settle. For many returnees, it is a place where dreams go to die; the infrastructure barely exists for honest business to grow. The insecurity, transportation, health care and insufficient power outage, and so many obstacles at every corner makes it frustrating to lift normal business off the ground talk less, of thriving. The executive order by President Muhammadu Buhari to improve local content in public procurement, with components in science, engineering, technology and innovation towards achieving Nigeria’s development goals across all sectors, makes no difference. It does not go anyway far enough: “all procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007”.

The Emirates have been doing this for decades, no need to reinvent the wheel, but until we learn to value one another, I am afraid nothing is going to change and the plea will fall on deaf ears. We have far too many baggages placing value on anyone or anything other than Nigerian. If we do not know our worth, then we cannot be surprised that no one will place any value on us. Little wonder there is little shift or influx of returnees trooping to get back home.   For example, I was glibly told by a friend that Nigeria has changed because  we have malls and the fantastic buildings in affluent areas. This friend typifies people who go on about how Nigeria has changed and in the next breathe, tells you how long they spent in traffic  how they have to bribe Tom, Dick and Harry to process their business and why they can’t pay their workers because, they were unable to pay X, because Y wants a share before Z gets paid. See how this appeal is unappealing? The reality drives some returnees back and others have burnt their bridges and feel trapped when money runs dry.

Onu continued: “Please we want you to return home; it is important. Not everybody will return, but some can start coming home, and that’s the essence. Hope you read between the lines, the type of people they expect for this new Nigeria, needs to bring something to the table! So poor Nigerians need not respond.

The minister has a lot to say: “We are telling you that things are changing in Nigeria. This is the message; that’s why I’m here. I heard all the complaints people will do this and nobody responds and all that and so on. Yes, these are things that happened in the past and we can’t correct these things just overnight.” Can someone please tell this minister that these things still happen and on a daily basis. Honesty pays:” This is the truth; there is no way you can make these changes and then make the corrections and all that overnight. But the important thing is that there is a change.” What an understatement! How long are long and what does there is a change, mean? How long is a piece of string?   No, Honourable minister you have not heard all the complaints, because those complaints have been going on for decades and it was ignored.

It smacks with hypocracy when appealed that Nigerians should make: “patriotic decisions” that would contribute to the country’s development, and: “If there were pioneers that built America, there must be pioneers to build Nigeria. We have some of the most intelligent people in the world. I can tell you this because I know those Nigerians who have done so well in the best universities; in the best research centres in the world.”

Modern America had mostly  settlers, Nigeria,  had the colonial masters who left some vestiges of their structures but say we were unable to maintain it. So pardon me, we are no pioneers so there are no pioneer spirits; here in fact the goodwill does not last after returning and adjusting to mismanagement, corruption, insecurity, amoral officials and poor and shoddy infrastructure.

A friend of mine, who returned to Nigeria and has worked so hard to build world standard martial arts league competitions in Nigeria, finds it difficult to get the Ministry of Sports to sponsor the Nigerians contingent to compete abroad. He was told to pay for it and then we pay you back! This is the same thing that happened to the nation’s football team, who bobsled team and our Olympic athletes. I have this story played again and again, in fact every time Nigerian team is playing. So this minister knows nothing of being patriotic, because Nigerians wherever they are, wear  their colours on their sleeves. Nigerians abroad send 22 billion in remittance. If not for these Nigerians; Nigerians will be in a  worse state.  We have to know our worth and for far too long, we do not think we are worth anything and we treat each other this way.

The minister’s words rings hollow: that the executive order would make money for Nigeria and Nigerians; create jobs for the citizens; fight poverty, and increase the number of middle-class persons in the nation and :”This is the message and I believe that this is also your intention that our nation will be a great nation. Please, you should never have any doubt about the future of our country.

Staying abroad is not a preferred choice but because the alternative, of living in Nigeria only benefit the very few and not the majority. We have a country so rich in its diversity and resources but it is wasted and its people have nothing to show for it. No country should be proud until its most vulnerable has the opportunity to thrive and enjoy a standard of life.   There is a big, resounding doubt that the minister was posturing and full of hot air. What would make a change is meaning what they say- some action please, Minister.   Until then, the grass at the moment remains greener where they are.

Being black abroad is no joke

East or west, home is best. Many blacks living abroad quickly get a rude awakening that their skin colour is a badge of shame. That some ignorant people will treat them differently and unfairly due to the colour of their skin. The realisation that someone takes offence to your skin and how you are treated  leaves a traumatic scar that is indelible and psychological.

Who would think that life and death can be the difference in skin colour? For many centuries  racism and the mistreatment of black people has misaligned and reduced to the footnote of history. No matter how long you live abroad or how many generations being the ‘other will always be the label that sets you apart and you are reminded that you do not belong. In the UK recently, people who were invited to come to the UK with their family over 60 years ago to help restructure and rebuild after the ward, were told they are not British, they lost their jobs, their homes,   locked up or deported to a place where they left as toddlers or never been. It was a wakeup call that the treatment of black people remains discriminatory and the reactions to blacks  very inflammatory.   With Trump in the White House, he has ratchet up racist sentiments that is spreading across Europe, it is pernicious and barbaric.

The sport company, Nike pulled a blinder and has made a black athlete the face of the company. Collin, an American footballer, took a knee during anthem to highlight the brutality of the US police towards black people much to the annoyance of the white supremacists.   It made so many people uncomfortable but left no doubt, racism is indeed alive and rearing its ugly head.

 


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